Tim Puetz’s Olympic adventure has begun. The 2009 and 2010 NCAA All-American is Auburn’s first tennis Olympian and, along with Kevin Krawietz, makes up doubles for Team Germany.
The tennis competition will start on Saturday morning in Ariake Tennis Park. “We were supposed to start at 11 a.m., but it’s apparently too hot here,” Puetz explained on Wednesday. “The organizers had an emergency meeting today because the heat index is more than what we can have for an ATP tournament and they are still in doubt whether they should move the start back a bit. It is very hot and very humid.”
The past month has been a whirlwind for Puetz and other Olympic tennis players. Puetz, one of the SEC’s five men’s tennis alums at this Olympic field, made his bid in June.
“Perhaps four weeks ago we got the final final confirmation the week before Wimbledon – that Kevin and I are together. After the French Open (the German Federation) decided that Kevin and I would be a combination and that they would put two singles together for a different combination, so we kind of knew then. I’m quite happy and also quite happy.”
Coming from an ATP doubles championship last weekend at the Hamburg European Open paired with New Zealand’s Michael Venus, Puetz, from Usingen, Germany, and the rest of the German tennis delegation arrived in Tokyo on Tuesday.
“We landed in the afternoon and left the airport about 4 hours later and went to the Olympic Village. We had a hit yesterday and I try to stay up as late as possible to get used to the time,” Puetz, currently performing a song 33 doubles ranking, said.
“Besides the fact that you have to wear a mask, it’s pretty normal in the village itself. There are no real restrictions; we can really do what we want and go where we want within the village.
“It’s a huge complex of big buildings and so many athletes everywhere, but we don’t really do anything but eat and then hang out in the apartment. We actually have an apartment and share rooms. I feel like I’m back in college. The six guys (in the German tennis delegation) are all together in the apartment.”
Puetz says the team atmosphere reminds him of his days on the plains. “(The team environment) is a completely different feeling. Look at us here, we all hang out and have a lot of fun together. But in a normal tournament, the same six guys, in a way where we almost as co-workers it’s a bit different. I really like the team structure and I think it has always brought out the best in me.”
The semifinalist of the NCAA singles (2010) and doubles (2009) says college tennis gave him excellent preparation for what has been a decade in professional competition. “You can talk about playing on a team, that I have good coaches at Auburn, that I play a lot of games, and I think that makes a huge difference, and of course good games in the SEC against the top league, getting used to playing with spectators, umpires and such.
“When I got out of school I felt like I had a big advantage over other guys I would play against in tournaments. Everything you experience in college, the amount of training, the amount of physical training, the amount of competition prepared me well.”
Puetz predicts that the stress level will be slightly different from a Grand Slam or ATP tournament.
“If you want to compete at a certain level, stress is just part of it, but I don’t feel (nervous) here,” he said. “I may feel different after the first round, but so far it’s just such a fun atmosphere. If you’re going to play in a Grand Slam, you just play for yourself, or doubles, you play for yourself and your partner But here, you’re here as a team and it doesn’t matter how the other guys do it. I feel so comfortable here with the other players and coaches. We have a men’s coach, a women’s coach, a physio and a administrator and that’s all we meet as a group and play games together every night. It’s more of a relaxed atmosphere than in a Slam, where everyone just does their own thing.”
Maroon Men’s Tennis (@AuburnMTennis) July 21, 2021
Puetz, who has won three tournament titles this season, “was just a regular Olympic fanatic, the 100 meters, those were the guys I remember. When I was little, Michael Johnson was probably the first I remember; 96 Atlanta was the first I actually saw. 92 was Barcelona and I don’t remember watching but I remember the Dream Team was in basketball.”
One memory that Puetz and Krawietz are sure to capture in 2021 is attending Friday’s opening ceremony.
“I’m definitely going to the opening ceremony; I’ve talked to Kevin about it,” Puetz said. “It’s the same problem with tennis every Olympics, the opening ceremony is Friday night and then we may have to play Saturday morning, but we said this might be our only time in the Olympics.
“Besides, the Opening is the only Olympic activity that we can really do here, other than tennis, because we are not allowed to watch any other sport. We are not allowed to leave the village; we are locked up, not in a bad way, but we have nowhere to go So we’re definitely going to the Opening and just hope we don’t have to play at 11am on Saturday.”
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